You can’t take me anywhere

By Mir
January 29, 2008

I think I’ve mentioned before that at some point I became overwhelmed with this weird THING that compelled me to sign up for a committee in the name of bettering our schools.

(Oh… right. I think that THING may be “a sense of parental and civic responsibility,” but on the other hand, maybe it’s just a mild case of Athlete’s Foot, because it’s sort of itchy.)

On the one hand, I know it’s tiresome to keep up with the “OMG! WTF is the matter with the schools here?” routine, because I’ve done it before, for one thing, and also, HOW MUCH TIME DO YOU HAVE? On the other hand, every time I sort of comfort myself with the sense that really, things are improving ’round here and wow, look at the neat stuff the kids are bringing home, something else happens and I find myself saying “OMG! WTF is the matter with the schools here??”

[Keep in mind that all of this is aside from the stuff Monkey comes home and tells me about his teacher, she-who-needs-to-retire. Yesterday he reported that she told a child that she wanted said child out of her class (second grade, people) and also that said child was unlikely to be promoted to third grade. Nice of her to say, and particularly charming of her to say in front of the other students, no? Argh.]

Anyway. So I’m on this committee. And we have meetings.

We have loooooooooong meetings.

We look at ISSUES and we DISCUSS things and then sometimes we make RECOMMENDATIONS. It all sounds very nice. In reality, I fear that we represent a small subset of the students, plus it doesn’t appear that the school board actually listens to us very often, but we certainly TRY to address all sorts of issues for everyone involved.

Many of the people on the committee have been doing it for years, and most of them know each other. I don’t really know anyone on the committee, and I always seem to end up sitting at the end of one of the tables, doodling in the margins of my agenda and feeling very much like I am back in 10th grade trigonometry; it’s not that I’m not interested, exactly, it’s that I doubt my ability to really participate meaningfully.

Anyway. So at this meeting last night, we went over a number of issues, and then there was a presentation on what has (apparently) been an ongoing investigation into a new Sex Ed agenda for the schools. From what I was able to gather, this has been a long project, and there were committees (of course! must have committees!) and there were student representatives involved as well, and the upshot is that they have approved the implementation of a new curriculum that is more integrated and ongoing (age-appropriate education at every level, etc.), and it sounds like there is just one step remaining—the approval of specific curriculum materials.

From the way this was presented, it sounded to me like this was exactly the results for which everyone had been hoping. It also, quite frankly, sounded like the curriculum they’re pushing is extremely comprehensive and the student reps thought it was great.

We were about to move on when someone raised their hand and started speaking.

I didn’t catch everything he said—he was sitting about as far away from me as possible, the way we were all configured in the room—but he said something that sounded like this: “Blah blah blah blah abstinence blah blah abstinence blah blah blah ABSTINENCE!”

Turned out that he thought this would be a good time and place to assert that teaching our teen-pregnancy-riddled county anything about birth control was A BAD IDEA. Because we should ONLY talk about abstinence, as that’s the way and the truth and the light.

Now, I doubt it comes as a huge shock that I believe in rigorous sexual eduction for our children regardless of your personal morals and beliefs, but beyond my personal stance on the matter, I just found this an odd time to suddenly get all up in a snit on the issue. I stopped doodling long enough to behold my fellow gape-mouthed committee members.

What transpired next was a little argument between Mr. Abstinence and the person who’d reported on the project status. She let him rant for a while, then gently pointed out that studies show that abstinence-only education does not, in fact, lower the incidence of teens engaging in sexual behavior, at which point Mr. Abstinence shot back, “Have you read those studies? Really studied the statistics?”

“Well, no, I haven’t…” she admitted.

“Well I have,” he snapped. “I’ve read those studies. I know the statistics, and how they twist them around. I’ve studied it!”

At which point I looked over at Mr. Abstinence and saw Tom Cruise’s leering face floating over his own, deja vu overpowering me. I stifled a giggle. And felt very sad that I didn’t know anyone there well enough to ask them if they were having a trippy Tom-Cruise-flashback experience, as well.

Later in the meeting, we were discussing something else that’s been going on, and it was finally decided that our group should draft a letter to the school board to address this issue. “Is there anyone here who’d like to take a stab at the draft? Anyone who’s good with letter-writing?” asked our chair.


I sighed and raised my hand. “I’ll do it.”

Hey, it’s writing. You know, with the words. And stuff. I can do that, right?

Here’s what I have so far:

Dear School Board:

It has come to our attention that you appear to have your heads stuck pretty far up your asses. Is there some way in which we as a committee can assist you with an expedient extraction? You know, before the torch-waving mob reaches your doors?

Our Committee

You know, I’m starting to think there’s a reason I work at home, alone, most of the time.


  1. Lori

    I think that is a great letter! They are truly lucky you volunteered!

  2. All Adither

    Little did you know you had a scientologist in your midst. Perhaps if everyone just popped some vitamins and did some yoga, the school issues would all sort themselves out.

  3. MomCat

    I’m going to hire you to do my letter writing from now on. I think that might get a speedy response.

    I’m thinking of placing my daughter in a nunnery starting next year, when she turns 14. Much easier and more dependable sex ed.

  4. Ladybug Crossing

    I dare you to send it. I bet it makes the papers.

  5. Melanie Marie

    Iron clad chastity belts… they are the only way to go!

  6. liz

    Well, you _are_ going to study the statistics of people having their heads up their asses to include in the letter, aren’t you?

  7. Jennifer

    I love the letter. I think that any one of us could take that very same letter, stick our names on it and send it to our very own school board. So, you’re not just doing a community service for yourself, but for all of us! Thanks Mir. . . .

    I’m actually proud of your restraint during the discussion about sex ed. I might have lost my mind and spewed teen pregnancy stats at the abstinence guy. Luckily, I don’t often have the opportunity to talk about the subject of teen sex because here in Texas, our politicians have decreed that “nice girls just don’t do that sort of thing. . . . ” Problem solved, right??

  8. Bob

    so, is that letter really directed to the school board, or to Mr. ABSTINENCE?

  9. Deb

    LOL, love that letter! And I really think Monkey is in the same second grade as my son, the teacher is exactly like ours. I cringe when she comments about students TO students and she has voiced her “opinion” that one child shouldn’t be in there and “how could your teacher last year think you were ready for 2nd grade” WTF? I am going to have a field day at the end of the year when I get to report all of this to the principal.

  10. Ani

    Hey can I plagiarize your letter and send it to our school board? Because they absolutely need to hear that.

    Except, I’m probably among the pitifully few who would make up the angry mob. The apathy level, it is high.

    BTW…a local town here decided they did not have a teen pregnancy problem. Because all the pregnant teens got married. Nice solution, eh?

  11. Aimee

    I, too, am feeling the letter-love. Frankly, a LOT of people could stand to get a letter like that. Have you thought about mass-producing it in postcard form, with blanks to fill in the appropriate names? I’d buy hundreds!

  12. Lucinda

    God bless school committees where people try really hard to learn about stuff and make good recommendations only to have some idiot decide at the end of the process it’s time to start over. Once you go through the process for a 3rd, 4th, 5th time, you send it to the school board only to have it completely ignored. BUT– They! have! community! involvement! Yeah team.

    I say send the letter. It would make for amusing sport to see if they even notice. (And seriously, kudos to you for trying to make a difference.)

  13. saucygrrl

    You know, one of the reasons why I avoid groups like this (aside from not having children, how awkward would THAT be) is that I doubt that I could have held back (what a shock) and I probably would have stood up and shouted YOU CAN’T HANDLE THE TRUTH!!!

    Personally I think the letter would benefit from some sort of Big Lebowski toe-in-a-box message as well, you know, just in case.

    (Why yes I DO watch a lot of movies… why do you ask?) ;)

  14. Amy-Go

    Send it! As is. Perfect!

  15. premenopaws

    It’s funny, because the minute someone showed me how to use a seatbelt, I went right out and crashed my car on purpose. Same thing with the smoke detectors. Their mere presence means my children now start fires in the house on a daily basis. And bike helmets? They now constantly plow headfirst into the pavement just because clearly, giving them helmets means I approve of concussions. Sex-ed and birth control will only lead to one thing–kids having sex. We simply can’t allow that to start happening. Besides, everyone knows if you just tell them not to, they won’t.

    I love your letter. Although using the word LOVE at the end is a little snarky. Maybe replace it with RESPECTFULLY so as not to piss anyone off.

  16. girlymom

    I like your letter, leave it untouched and press send.

    I was like you last year, I joined the school group, sat to the side, listened in, doodled, colored, finally realized out committee was made up of a set group who made the ultimate decisions…I was just there to listen, give input and be a puppet- nuf said, I have not been back this year (had a baby, been sick….hasn’t worked) and I am not looking forward to it. At least you go, volunteer and try to make the changes much needed.

  17. Jamie AZ


  18. The Other Leanne

    After many years of facilitating citizen committees, I know two things:
    1) No matter how many meetings and discussions to form a consensus, when it comes down to finalizing an agreement/recommendation there will always be one member who suddenly and out of the blue throws a monkey wrench in the whole deal; and
    2)That person is an idiot.
    It never fails.

  19. Flea

    What a delightful letter. I’m steering clear of the sex-ed in schools debate. My job is to teach my kids here. Keep the lines of communication open. Okay, now I’m laughing because open lines of communication with a 14 year old girl concerning sex ed? Hmph. Grr.

  20. Cheryl

    LOVE the letter! I think you should send it as is. ;)

  21. Lauren

    Does Monkey have _my_ second grade teacher? Of course, she’d be about 120 by now, she was so old and mean when I had her. Definitely time to retire.

  22. Burgh Baby's Mom

    Clearly, Tom Cruise’s psycho twin is just not getting enough sex. If her were, perhaps he could chill a wee bit.

  23. StephLove

    That’s terrible about Monkey’s teacher.

    Last year my son’s KINDERGARTEN teacher told him he wasn’t ready for first grade, due to some behavior issues. Up to that point we’d been gritting our teeth and only speaking of her diplomatically in front of him, but when she heard that, my partner said angrily, “She is wrong!” Our son seemed both shocked and kind of liberated by her outburst. Thank goodness he has better teachers this year. And all those behavior issues? Cleared up once he was out of her class. Funny, huh?

  24. Megan

    Could I please have a copy of that letter? In a friendly font with little emoticons to really highlight the important bits? Because Child 3 came home with its health book and I was helping it study and right smack in the first chapter was a list of 12 healthy things including YES only having sex AFTER MARRIAGE. So I got curious. According to this book? You can prevent pregnancy by… abstinence. AIDS? Abstinence. Other STD’s? A to the B to the .yeah. They mention abstinence in four chapters. Condoms? Not one. No mention, anywhere, of birth control. I hate my school system.

  25. heels

    Abstinence… Jeebus…

    I was a TA for a high-school freshman Health Ed class (Life Skills, they called it) for a year. Let me tell you- the abstinence thing? AIN’T HAPPENIN’!

  26. Sara

    (whispering ala Renee Zelweger in Jerry Maguire)You had me at “expedient extraction.” (choking up) You had me at “expedient extraction.”

  27. D

    An acquaintance was on a committee [his suggestion] to get a new math circ into a school. He had stats, figures, reports, and even an implementation plan. The PTA chairwoman wasn’t on the committee and got her nose out of joint – so she made a *new* committee to protest the first committee’s work. Sigh …

  28. Tootsie Farklepants

    I think your letter is perfect. Very to-the-point. I’m all for getting the point across in as few words as possible. I wish I’d been in the room with you but we’d probably get kicked out for laughing too much over Mr. Abstinence!

  29. Dawn

    Ah, committee meetings. Where the minutes are kept and the hours are lost.

    Abstinence? For teenagers? MWA HA HA HA HA!!!

    From Jennifer’s comment – “Here in Texas, our politicians have decreed that “nice girls just don’t do that sort of thing. . . ” ” That kind of statement just takes my breath away. “Nice” girls? What about the boys? How in the name of all that’s holy do they justify putting all of the responsibility for enforcing their kind of “morality” on the girls? My head, like hers, starts to explode when hearing this ridiculous nonsense.

    Argh. The double standard. It lives long and prospers.

    You should send that letter, just as it is. And not just to the school board.

  30. elswhere

    Whoa, do they assign all the teachers with unclear boundaries to 2nd grade? Because MG’s teacher is also prone to teh unprofessional snark. In front of students. And other parents. MG herself doesn’t seem to mind and skips off happily to school each morning (well, more or less happily, once she gets over the great injustice of having to get out of bed) but I am continually agape.

    Also: Another vote for the letter as is. In fact, I think that letter, more or less verbatim, would be quite useful on a number of occasions.

  31. la blogger gal

    Ah…times like this I not only miss GA, but I miss teaching in Atlanta Public Schools. Have fun with the letter, it seems as though you’re off to a great start ;-)

  32. Amy S.

    Oh god…GA public schools. Between this post and your readers’ comments, I’m getting very, very scared…

  33. Belinda

    Um, did we both write posts today with the sentiment “you can’t take us anywhere” RIGHT IN THE TITLE? We totally did. I am obviously capable of forming a mind-meld with you. ‘Scuse me…gotta go work on something.

  34. tammy

    Didn’t you read about that in the paper? A couple of weeks ago they said the school board had just about made up its mind to start maybe talking about stuff that was something other than abstinence in the schools. Then the whole state froze over and what was probably a totally innocent weather pattern was mistaken for Jesus’s opinion about the sex ed curriculum.

  35. ImpostorMom

    That letter seems to be a good all purpose response to most of our school board’s issues. Well done.

    I don’t know how you restrained yourself during Mr. Abstinence’s rant. Not sure I could have.

  36. Stew

    Adolescent health educator here, specialty sex ed, also in the south. Email me if you or yours want/need a gazillion studies about the failure of abstinence-only curricula and/or the successes of comprehensive curricula or any other kind of help. Jeeze oh MAN.

    If I start getting into my specific thoughts about this subject I’ll ramble on for hours. So I won’t.

  37. Kate

    Ha ha! First thing I thought when you started recounting his studies of the studies was Tom Cruise. Glad I’m not the only one ;)

  38. Lulu

    Tee hee! I think your working draft is spot on. Hey, maybe you could run for school board! Just imagine the fun committee meetings you could sit in on then!!!

  39. Heather

    I do think abstinence should be included in sex ed, though – and noted as the only thing that’s 100% effective, but for goodness sakes if you’re going to DO SOMETHING, do it safely!! Oy. Kids should know the options.
    Also, love that letter.

  40. Wendy

    Remember what your mother told you (or is it just Southern Mothers), you get more bees with honey than with vinegar. So, send some sugar along with that vinegar.

  41. Daisy

    Love it, love it, love it. I’d write one like that to my school board, but then I’d lose my job because they’re my bosses.

  42. BooMom

    I second the idea that ‘THE LETTER!” be mass-produced – lord knows I could use about 20 copies right NOW!!

  43. Momma Em

    So….Does Mr. ABSTINENCE have a daughter? *whispering* Is she pregnant???

    Sounds like this Brilliant parent has all the answers; including what to do when your idiocy has left your daughter (whom you probably have forgotten to teach self-control to anyway) with the choice of abstinence (which I fully support) or……Oh, what? Yeah, NOTHING! Good luck with that one Mr.Oops-my-daughter-is-pregnant!

  44. vanessa

    I teach sex ed (in a church, natch) and lemme tell you, this abstinence stuff, it is the height of the bs.
    Which is why I cannot stand people like Mr. Abstinence. Probably I would have killed him. I just have no self control around idiots.
    But the letter is way better. Send it that way! And I’ll take a few, if you feel like running some extras off…

  45. Gaslight

    Hey – can you come work at my school district? Here’s why:
    “I’ll take the answer “3” for $200, Alex.”
    The question is, “How many girls are pregnant in Mrs. Gaslight’s SEVENTH grade language arts classes?”
    I’m not kidding. WTF??

  46. the elder

    i must say… i read this.. and giggled outrageously….
    i come from a town where teenage pregnancies are in rather large numbers. we don’t have any form of sex ed until grade 12, and by then, it’s mostly too late. i honestly don’t understand why kids can’t just read books about sex and protection, but then again, most of them aren’t the most colourful crayons in the box.

    i lost my virginity at the age of 16, and by my peer’s standards, i was a VERY late bloomer. oh i knew about it… i just wasn’t interested. so obviously this abstinence method is totally a load of codswallop. kids only do what they’re told not to anyway.

    gotta wonder what sort of nasty skeletons mr abstinence has hiding under his bedsheets?

  47. Julie Stiles Mills

    You are a GREAT storyteller! Every time! I just saw the Tom Cruise parody video by Jerry O’Connell at The post title begins “Crazy is as crazy does videos . . . ” HILARIOUS!

  48. mama speak

    Gawd! I’m not sure where to start on this one. But then I’m from CA, where all the free-loving hippies live.

    Ummm, does Mr. Abstinence know how his kid got here? I’m just saying? (Yeah, I’m sure he was married before he had sex, but I’ll also bet he knew what all the parts on both sides did before then too.)

    Tammy, I loved your comments!

  49. MaryP

    Momma M: No, no, no. Mr. Abstinence’s teenage daughter is not pregnant. She’s MARRIED. With a husband and everything.

    and a child…

  50. MSB

    a little behind in reading this week…LMAO… I literally am cleaning my computer screen as we speak, as I spit out my chicken noodle SOUP when I read your proposed letter to the school board. Rock On, girl. not to get all the Georgians pissed off, but there is no way I could have children in GA (lived in Augusta for a few years and LOVED it) but anywhoo…. I would have to home school them – which wouldn’t work, I’d kill them. As bad as some of the education problems are up here where I am (north) – the South doesn’t have a good reputation for educational systems.

  51. MSTIH

    remember, kids come home with just half the story……

    and your letter rocks!

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